Nonlethal weapons provide SF with force options



by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs


4/6/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Security forces personnel sometimes face situations requiring force. To help them achieve the best outcomes, they are equipped with several nonlethal weapons, according to Maj. Tony Castillo.

"We employ Tasers that use an electric charge to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, impact devices such as expandable or collapsible batons and oleoresin capsicum spray (a.k.a. pepper spray), a chemical compound that irritates the eyes, causes intense tearing and temporarily disrupts vision," he said.

According to the Department of Defense website, nonlethal weapons support the Air Force mission by helping Airmen achieve compliance, facilitate crowd control, limit mobility of threats and provide Airmen with protection from blunt force trauma from thrown objects.

Nonlethal weapons not only allow officers more flexibility out in the field, they can help negate the need for deadly force.

"Essentially, every situation is different and requires (security forces) to apply just the amount of force reasonably needed to obtain compliance when other techniques such as verbal manipulation have failed to eliminate an officer safety concern or the threat of harm to the defender or another person," Castillo said.

"Nonlethal weapons are critical in de-escalating hostile situations because they give defenders options to safeguard lives while apprehending suspects and upholding the law," he said. "Without nonlethal weapons, there would be few choices for (security forces) to use in protecting themselves and the community they defend."
Security forces members use lethal force as a last resort. Having these weapons allows them to take control of the situation swiftly and effectively.

"Nonlethal weapons allow us to gain control of situations where other techniques and procedures may not adequately produce the desired outcomes. Desired outcomes are therefore not permanent, and in a high percentage of cases, there are no lasting effects," Castillo said.

Security forces also use a unique arsenal in deployed environments, he said.
"In deployed environments, you're dealing with prisoner control and confrontation management situations," Castillo said. "Security forces uses a number of different nonlethal weapons such as pepper ball guns, water cannons, bean bags, rubber ball grenades, tear gas and directed energy weapons."

Ultimately, having these weapons allows security forces members to simultaneously protect the lives of the people they serve and the criminals they apprehend, he said.
"Nonlethal weapons give defenders various options short of resorting to techniques which could result in serious bodily harm or death."